4 Healthy And Delicious Vegan Fermented Foods For Your Next Meal

July 11, 2024

A fun aspect of being vegan is discovering new ways to create meals and the health benefits you didn’t even know existed in many plant foods. Fermented foods, “defined as foods or beverages produced through controlled microbial growth”, fall under this category because they are loaded with gut-healthy bacteria and probiotics, and can improve the health of your microbiome. Vegan fermented foods also provide unique flavours and textures for a delicious meal.
A Stanford Medicine study on fermented foods found they increase microbiome diversity and decrease inflammatory proteins.

“A diet rich in fermented foods enhances the diversity of gut microbes and decreases molecular signs of inflammation, according to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine.” – Stanford Medicine

Eating more vegan foods aligns with the Plant Based Treaty’s mission to promote a shift towards a plant-based food system that enables us to live safely within our planetary boundaries. To learn more about their approach to the food system, read their Safe and Just report, which raises awareness of the devastating impacts of animal agriculture on our earth.

Creating healthy fermented foods that are naturally vegan and moving away from eating animal products is a win for our health, the animals, and our earth. Here are some fermented food recipes to get you started.  

Kombucha Tea

If you are familiar with kombucha, then you know it’s a sparkling drink usually made from black or green tea. It’s created by fermenting tea and sugar with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and contains live cultures. This fizzy drink has many health benefits “from aiding in digestion to ridding your body of toxins and boosting energy levels”, as described by Webmd.

This powerful drink, which may even help your immune system and lower the risk of heart disease, has been around for over 2,000 years. First brewed in China, it’s now become popular in North America. It’s easy to find in the supermarket with many tempting flavours including pineapple, lemongrass, hibiscus, strawberry, mint, jasmine, and even chlorophyll for extra health kicks. For daring and creative souls who want to try and make their own kombucha tea from scratch, Vegan Physicist has got you covered in his comprehensive guide. Currently living in Canada, Henrik is originally from Sweden where he got his PhD in physics, and his unique blog showcases vegan meals from around the world and the science behind them. He explains how making your own kombucha is a great introduction to fermentation and can be very satisfying!

Miso Soup
Miso is a fermented soybean paste made by fermenting soybeans with koji, an ingredient with rice and fungus that is completely plant-based. Miso is a versatile ingredient and has been common in Japanese cooking for over 1,300 years. In Japan, it’s common for miso makers to create their own koji in a process that takes several days and includes soy being soaked in water for about 15 hours, steamed, mashed, and cooled to eventually form a paste-like dough.

Caitlin Shoemaker, vegan recipe developer and creator of the food blog From My Bowl, has a quick and not-too-complicated vegan miso soup recipe that can be made in one pot with seven ingredients. She uses two kinds of dried seaweed, cubed tofu, multiple varieties of mushrooms, and organic white miso paste. Shoemaker focuses on budget-friendly recipes and mentions that most of the ingredients in her miso soup recipe can be found at affordable Japanese or Asian grocery stores. This miso soup is rich in probiotics and has a delicious umami flavour.

Another food created with fermented soybeans is tempeh. It’s become more popular over the years because it’s a nutritious and versatile vegan source of protein that can be used in multiple cuisines as a plant-based meat alternative. This traditional Indonesian food is made by washing and then boiling soybeans. They are left overnight to soak, hulled, and then cooked again before cooling.
PubMed explains that soybeans are “inoculated with a mold, usually of the genus Rhizopus. After fermentation has occurred, the soybeans are bound together into a compact cake by dense cottony mycelium. An important function of the mold in the fermentation process is the synthesis of enzymes, which hydrolyze soybean constituents and contribute to the development of a desirable texture, flavor, and aroma of the product.”

Once cooked it becomes crunchy with a nutty flavour, and contains B vitamins, fiber, iron, calcium, and a whopping 18 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, which is about one third of a store bought package – it’s literally a vegan nutrition superstar!

Tempeh is cholesterol-free, supports gut health, can lower inflammation, and promotes bone health. Sarah’s Vegan Kitchen has a stovetop tempeh bacon recipe that’s delicious and perfect for your next vegan BLT, Caesar salad topper, or as a side for weekend brunch.

Sauerkraut, Kimchi, And Pickled Veggies

Fermented vegetables have multiple health benefits including aiding in digestion, and are packed with good bacteria, vitamins, and minerals. Some fun veggies to ferment in small batches include red bell peppers, radishes, turnips, green beans, garlic, cauliflower, and cucumbers.

If you are looking to make your own sauerkraut, Losune from Simple Vegan Blog shares her sauerkraut recipe for this traditional German food high in vitamin C and healthy probiotics. It’s popular in many Eastern European countries and a healthy side dish. Her inexpensive recipe uses only finely cut cabbage and salt that ferments in brine to create a food with lactic acid bacteria, with new flavour compounds. It’s actually quite remarkable what happens when veggies are left in highly concentrated saltwater solutions!

Kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage dish popular in Korean cuisine, is available in grocery stores in the refrigerated veggie section. If purchasing premade kimchi, be sure the jar says ‘plant-based’, as it’s traditionally made with fish sauce. For a tasty, authentic, and vegan kimchi recipe, check out our Cabbage is Trending article, which also explores the history of this versatile vegetable.

If you are looking for more ways to veganize your meals, download the Plant Based Treaty’s free plant-based starter guide. It contains fun recipes, meal planners, nutritional information, and tips to start your journey.

Miriam Porter is an award-winning writer who writes about veganism, social justice issues, and eco-travel. Miriam currently lives in Toronto with her son Noah and many rescued furry friends. She is a passionate animal rights activist and speaks up for those whose voices cannot be heard.